Journal journeys: Day 14, Driven to distraction

Recruitment for the associate editor positions at Nature Chemistry continues, and although I obviously can’t comment on specifics here, there are some general observations I want to share with you.

No interviews have been scheduled yet, but I want you to imagine a hypothetical scene in which a candidate is sitting across a desk from me and one of my colleagues in the Nature offices in London. We’re about half-way through the interview and the questions continue…

Me: So, if you wouldn’t mind, could you briefly summarize your thoughts on this manuscript for us.

Candidate: Well, although the conceptual novelty is somewhat compromised by the work reported in reference 8, it’s certainly a comprehensive study and represents a significant advance over previous work in this area, so it probably should be sent out to referees to see what they think.

Me: Good, good. So, how’s your parallel parking?

Candidate: I’m sorry, my what?

Me: Parallel parking – oh, never mind. OK, minibuses, have you ever driven a minibus?

Candidate: What? A minibus? Erm, no… no I haven’t – why?

Me: Hmm. Oh dear, that could be a problem. Now, let me see, yes, you’re driving at 47 mph down a country lane and it rained heavily about 12 hours earlier, what’s the safe stopping distance?

Candidate: I beg your pardon.

Let me just point out now, that exchanges of this kind will not feature in the interviews. No one will be asked about their driving skills or associated knowledge. And I can guarantee this in spite of the fact that most of the people in the UK (including some, but not all of the Nature Chemistry candidates), proudly include on their CVs that they have a driving licence.

To be fair, I used to put this invaluable nugget of information on my CV as well, until one day I suddenly realized that it really wasn’t all that important for the jobs I was applying for… i.e., if you can analyze the ins-and-outs of an asymmetric synthesis paper, I don’t really care if you can do a three-point-turn or not.

I think it’s just a hangover from what we were all told at school – I think that’s where I picked up the habit. Sure, it does no harm (and no one will be denied — or indeed selected for — an interview for Nature Chemistry based on whether this was included on their CV or not), but unless it is directly relevant to the job, I don’t see the point.

Please note, however, that I am not a recruitment specialist or hiring manager (or whatever you call those people) and perhaps I am missing something important – so I’m not offering professional advice here, leave this piece of information off your CV at your own peril. (Perhaps that was why the Royal Society of Chemistry turned me down?).

I don’t remember seeing driving qualifications on any of the non-UK CVs, but that’s not to say they don’t have their own problems. If I get a minute away from websites, podcasts, hiring and Nature Nanotechnology manuscripts, I’ll be back to tell you about them…


Stuart Cantrill (Chief Editor, Nature Chemistry)